June 10, 2019

New leadership for the digital workplace

Inspiring curiosity, keeping pace with change and understanding different generations are all priorities


In a world that is increasingly becoming digitized, there is a sense of urgency about revamping the way we do things; we can no longer rely on the same old ways. As the business landscape is being reshaped in the tech-driven era of Industry 4.0, everything else follows — even the characteristics of business leaders in the workplace.

As business leaders, we want to change for the better, and to inspire and lead our people toward a new level of success. This is why in the new digital workplace — where everything from your people to the way they work has changed — we need to step into a new leadership role. Here are 5 priorities that you can focus on when thinking about this.

The first priority is inspiring curiosity. Curiosity itself is a vast topic and can mean different things to different people. But as Cinnabon CEO Kat Cole once described curiosity is a trait “that drives people who seem to cut through the clutter and wind up with more opportunities and more trajectory”. Simply put, curiosity brings forth more opportunities.

The new leaders of today’s new world shouldn’t just be curious themselves, but should also be able to inspire that same curiosity and need for learning to their people. Leaders can inspire curiosity by encouraging their people to learn more so they question more. The key is that both leaders and their people should keep their minds open to new things.

The second priority is making sense of unlimited information. Today, we have Google, and massive amounts of information are available in just a few clicks. But equally massive amounts of clutter and misinformation can sometimes frustrate us in the search for relevance and meaning.

Leaders need to be able to make sense of this unlimited information and to do so, here are some guidelines. Leaders must keep things simple, relevant and clear. In addition to being precise, the information must include some supporting evidence so that it is balanced with facts. Most importantly, the information should be clear enough to be actionable.

The third priority is building a new relationship with technology. Because the world is becoming more digitized, leaders must get comfortable with and close to technology. It is becoming the key tool to help them understand their people and the world around them.

A great way for leaders to apply technology in the workplace is to keep your mind open to things to come, stay curious, and focus on the clients’ needs. At the end of the day, technology isn’t about replacing humans, but something that can be used to more effectively answer the needs of others.

The fourth priority is creating a new relationship with the speed of change. To make sure they don’t get left behind, leaders need to allot enough time, switch up their physical space for inspiration, clearly define how to work with one another, and create a safe space for people to make controlled mistakes.

A design thinking concept is a great approach to this, as it is all about complex problem-solving with speed. As long as you commit to it and get the hang of speeding things up, you’ll be able to keep up with change better.

The fifth and final priority is working in a multi-generational workforce. Different generations grew up in different environments and thus hold different views and traits, so there will be some disconnect. The important thing is to make sure that the generation gap does not threaten the harmony in the workplace.

Leaders can handle a multi-generational workforce by understanding that they can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach in dealing with their people. And while we may generalize about certain characteristics of different generations, we shouldn’t get reduce them to stereotypes, as we need to encourage collaboration. Most importantly, despite generational differences, you need to help all your people understand the bigger picture of the organization’s goals so that everyone knows where to aim together.

Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma are great examples of leaders who have guided their people into this digital era and continue to lead them toward success. They pushed beyond the normal and continue to step into new roles as needed. We, too, can do the same for our business.

At the end of the day, change is inevitable and the way we define leadership changes as well. We must be able to step up and into our new roles and lead our people in this digital era toward future success.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com/